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Disciplining SA school kids: why a 'good hiding' or humiliation won't work

17 June 2015 4:14 PM

A new study has found that punishing pupils for bad behaviour with humiliation or corporal punishment only adds to the problem.

The findings of a new research paper suggest that punishing pupils for bad behaviour, with humiliation or by administering corporal punishment, only serves to aggravate disciplinary problems in South African schools.

CapeTalk presenter John Maytham spoke to the researcher Dr. Roelf Reyneke about his study.

I’ve been working in schools for years now and we are looking for another way of discipline known as restorative practices.

Roelf Reyneke, Senior social work lecturer at the University of the Free State

According to Statistics South Africa 13.5% of pupils in South Africa still endure corporal punishment. But Reyneke says research shows that corporal punishment is not effective in ridding schools and homes of social problems.

Disciplining children with corporal punishment may be a ‘quick’ fix, but restorative practice requires investment.

He says that corporal punishment is a short-term measure that, more often than not, exacerbates existing issues with young pupils.

The restorative approach - an alternative

The study, published in the latest issue of the Perspectives in Education Journal, argues that children bring the social ills that they are exposed to in their communities into their classrooms.

We propose that schools work from a value-based perspective and help children to develop an inner sense of control.

Reyneke argues that an approach to discipline, which considers the personal circumstances and needs of children, is needed in schools.

Here are some practical elements to the restorative approach:

  • Changing the attitudes often associated with teacher-pupil relationships.
  • The introduction of ‘circles’ or support networks for pupils in schools.
  • Skills development for teachers to be equipped to deal with social issues.
  • A referral chain to social workers, auxiliary social workers and youth care resources.

Listen to the full conversation on the John Maytham Show:


17 June 2015 4:14 PM